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Cornell student accused of threatening Jewish students makes first appearance in court

Ava Pukatch

The Cornell University student accused of making threats of violence to Jewish students on an online message board made his first appearance in a federal court in Syracuse Wednesday afternoon.

21-year-old Patrick Dai entered the courtroom wearing an orange jumpsuit and was handcuffed at the waist. His mother and a family friend sat in the courtroom gallery as the judge read the charge and explained his rights to him.

Dai is being represented by public defender Gabrielle DiBella and the most he spoke was to say "Yes your honor." He is charged with posting threats to kill or injure another using interstate communications which carries a maximum term of 5 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and a term of supervised release of up to 3 years.

An assistant U.S. attorney asked Dai be held in jail without bail, saying Dai is a danger to others and a flight risk. Dai has yet to enter a plea.

Gov. Kathy Hochul commented on the arrest earlier in the day.

"If there's any, any state charges simultaneously, we'll be coordinating with the FBI and the local DA's on that question," Hochul said. "But I want to make an example and say, as I said on Monday when I told those students, 'If you do this, you will be caught and be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Dai is due back in court on November 15 at 2 p.m. for a probable cause hearing. He is being held at the Broome County Correctional Facility.

Cornell University announced Friday, November 3 will be a "community day" where no classes will be held, and faculty and staff will be excused from work, except for employees who provide essential services.

"While we take some measure of relief in knowing that the alleged author of the vile antisemitic posts that threatened our Jewish community is in custody, it was disturbing to learn that he was a Cornell student," Cornell University President Martha Pollack said in a message to the campus community.

Pollack said the university continues to have an increased police presence, especially in high-priority areas.

Read her message to the campus sent Wednesday afternoon.

Ava Pukatch joined the WRVO news team in September 2022. She previously reported for WCHL in Chapel Hill, NC and earned a degree in Journalism and Media from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Ava was a Stembler Scholar and a reporter and producer for the award-winning UNC Hussman broadcast Carolina Connection. In her free time, Ava enjoys theatre, coffee and cheering on Tar Heel sports. Find her on Twitter @apukatch.